Trembling With Fear 08/16/20
I am a puddle. Temperatures have been soaring and with no breeze and no air conditioning, I have been losing the will to live. Before I evaporate completely however, I suppose I’d better get on and write this week’s editorial …
This week, I am including a little author feature for no less a person than Patrick Winters. He has been previously mentioned here as facing ongoing health issues and a few days ago he posted his latest medical results on Facebook. Did you see my earlier comment about me being a puddle? That is absolutely nothing to the difficulties faced by Patrick and puts me to shame. Despite having had news which will see him undergo some pretty complex and serious surgery as well as having discussions about future chemo, he has continued to post very bad jokes on FB, submit stories to TWF and sub and be accepted by other presses. Please, please can I urge you all to continue to read the excellent work from this man’s pen and show him all the love and support you can. You will find his publication info here and here. And I can guarantee he will be published here again.
We start Trembling with Fear this week with the endearingly titled Mucus by Kevin M. Folliard and features a pet hate, slugs. Ugh, they make my stomach turn but this is a fun story. Forget those disgusting blobs that eat your plants, these are much more vicious and as an advance guard for something yet to come, perfect. Effective, fun and entertaining. More creature features please.
Crasher by F.M. Scott brings you a creepy, uninvited guest, the one you thought you got rid of.
Into the Void by Zoe Sparque feels like a familiar set up, an evil entity following the person who has fled their cursed home and you know that evil will take hold again – or will it? Sometimes spirits don’t cover all the bases.
Phase Two by Lionel Ray Green personifies our current predicament. Personification and allegories make good vehicles for a story.
Enjoy the stories and send us yours!
I’m taking a mental health day this week so don’t have much to say. That being said, our featured story is a great one that kicks off in the city I love.
More next week!
Mucus by Kevin M. Folliard
On Monday, reports began of mucus-covered mollusks slithering from Chicago sewers. They came in clumps and swarms, up storm drains, out of grates, and through the peephole openings of manhole covers. Some even began to surface in restrooms and kitchen sinks.
The slugs had a pale off-white pigment, like a glow-in-the dark-sticker. But their slime trails were a bright lime-green, and in the sun, the mucus had a strange effect on everything it touched.
It soaked up photons, sizzled, and burned like otherworldly acid. The corrosive substance did not seem to affect the slugs themselves. Nothing did, in fact. Their bodies compressed paper-thin under even the most tremendous pressure.
Joe Lugowski learned this the hard way when his semi-truck careened over a patch of slugs worming their way over I-55 at 10:20 a.m. The truck tires flattened them, and within seconds, they puffed back up, and slithered onward. The mucus on Joe’s tires, however, corroded the rubber, causing 8 simultaneous blowouts. The truck overturned across 4 lanes of traffic. The ensuing 40-car pileup killed 13 morning commuters and injured many more.
The slippery, indestructible creatures wormed indifferently through the wreckage. The sun scorched their mucus paths into black striations in the road.
By Monday afternoon, the streets were cleared. Special Agent Regina Holiday and her crew landed on the Magnificent Mile via helicopter. They donned hazmat suits and descended into the sewer system to investigate the source of the infestation which had halted all traffic and brought the trains to a stop.
The small team of investigators entered the tunnels at 1:45 p.m.
They did not return.
Agent Holiday’s transmissions were sporadic. At one point, she declared cryptically, “There’s a lot missing down here.” Later, she reported, “I can’t even begin to understand what I’m looking at.”
Her team was not responding to the questions radioed down to them.
Finally, at 2:23 p.m., Agent Holiday gave one final, frantic transmission: “There’s no end to this! It goes forever! I can’t—” Static. “Something is hungry . . . .”
People attempted to contain the slugs, using shovels, push brooms. Whatever they could find.
At nightfall, Garfield Jackson organized the city’s snowplow and salt truck drivers to patrol the neighborhoods and try to keep the slugs pushed away from homes. Though the salt had no effect on the creatures’ bodies, the plows did help corral the pulsating masses for a time. The corrosive mucus was not as potent without sunlight, but the sheer volume of the infestation was soon beyond containment.
The slugs poured with particular fury south of Fire Station E108. Firefighter Mike Knowles organized efforts to douse the area in gasoline, to start a controlled burn. Within minutes of the blaze, everyone within a three-block radius was dead.
Many others attempted to set the slugs on fire as well, never realizing that the mucus, when burned, became a noxious asphyxiating poison.
The slugs themselves did not burn.
By midnight, the slugs were oozing up in great liquid tubes of wormy muck, spilling into the streets and out of the plumbing. Filling homes and high-rises.
Seven-year-old Talia Habib screamed in terror when the green muck came slithering from their bathroom sink. Her father scooped her up and carried her from their home. They were two of the fortunate few who made it to a rescue chopper that night.
By Tuesday morning, a blanket of neon mucus coated the streets, clogged plumbing, filled foundations, and slicked over brickwork, bridges, and monuments. Waves of gushing indestructible invertebrates piled up over people and animals. They drowned the grass and coated the trees in bubbly globs.
At the break of dawn, Sherman the Lion unleashed one final, earth-shattering roar in the Lincoln Park Zoo as the slugs poured through the bars of his cage.
As the sun rose over the city, the mess of mucus sputtered and hissed. The streets cracked and split apart. Mighty skyscrapers crumbled from the bottom up.
Rings of acid burned away the Loop, and hundreds of thousands of tons of rock, metal, glass, concrete, cars, trains, and people sank into a terrible darkness.
The gateway growing beneath the city expanded. The Lake Michigan shore sloshed into whitewater falls that spilled into unknown depths. The slugs, having done their job, glittered like glow-in-dark confetti back into the abyss. And the roar that escaped the crater could be felt across the oceans.
Far more terrifying creatures—ravenous things forgotten by time—lurked on the other side of the subterranean portal.
Kevin M. Folliard
Kevin M. Folliard is a Chicagoland writer whose published fiction includes scary stories collections Christmas Terror Tales and Valentine Terror Tales, as well as adventure novels such as Matt Palmer and the Komodo Uprising. His work has also been collected by The Horror Tree, Flame Tree Publishing, Hinnom Magazine, and more. Kevin currently resides in La Grange, IL, where he enjoys his day job as an academic writing advisor. When not writing or working, he’s usually reading Stephen King, playing Street Fighter, or traveling the U.S.A.
He showed up at my party uninvited. We’d been on the outs for a while. He knew how to wreck a good time. He’d start fights over stupid shit, and I would ask him to leave. But I gave him another chance—and he managed to piss off everybody with his drunken ranting. We stood silently as he began to speak in some language we couldn’t place. It had the sibilant quality of backward drums. I sent him off once more. He stormed out, staggering, and peeled out in his car. Now he keeps showing up in all my photos.
F.M. Scott is from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he lives and writes. His stories have appeared in The Killer Collection, Sirius Science Fiction, The Horror Tree, The Tulsa Voice, and The Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine. A few of his drabbles were collected in Trembling with Fear: Year 2 Anthology.
Facebook and Twitter @fmscottauthor
Into the Void
Hanna sold the house at a loss. After losing her husband and daughter, this only seemed fitting.
Her new apartment was bright and sunny. Hanna did not notice. Was this how grief felt?
She was oblivious to the words that appeared on the bathroom mirror after she took a shower, telling her to run. She was oblivious to the messages that appeared on the walls of her living room, telling her evil had followed her home. As the spirit regained its strength, their handwriting became more desperate every day. Hanna did not notice. Her ghosts had yet to master braille.
The doctor enters his laboratory at 6 a.m.
Phosphorescent lights buzz to life.
The doctor sits on a stool and taps a button on his computer.
“Worldwide death toll reaches 500,000,” the headline reads.
A door opens followed by footfalls descending on steps.
A man sporting a black beret appears from the shadows.
He wears a smile and a gray uniform adorned with ribbons above the left breast pocket and patches on the shoulders.
“Did you see the news?” the man asks.
The doctor nods.
“We have crossed the first threshold,” the man says. “It is time for Phase Two.”
Lionel Ray Green
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Stephanie Ellis is a member of the HWA and writes dark speculative prose and poetry which has been published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. Her work includes the novel, The Five Turns of the Wheel and the gothic novella, Bottled, both via Silver Shamrock Publishing.She can be found at https://stephanieellis.org/ and on twitter @el_Stevie.